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Maple tree--shock? too much water? not enough?

Posted by courtneyjim Indiana (My Page) on
Sat, Jul 11, 09 at 18:31

Hello and thanks, in advance, for any help!
My husband and I planted two small red maples last fall, one on the east side of the house and the other on the west. They budded and leafed up nicely this spring--other than the slight lean on both of them (which we will attend to shortly with staking), they seemed to be doing well.

Some more background: the west face tree is in our 'back yard' and there is virtually NOTHING around to provide any shade. The soil is, according to my husband, predominantly 'clay'. We weren't watering either tree for some time, because there had been some rain every week here in IN for the last few months.

In the last week, the west tree's leaves have turned yellow, with browning on the edges, crispy and the grass surrounding the base of the tree (in a perfect circle around the tree) was also yellow/tan. The east's leaves turned a darker green, were wilty and dry, and again, the grass at the base of the tree appeared dry and dying.

I assumed that the trees were both in dehydration shock and have begun watering twice daily with soaker hoses around the base.

My questions are these: 1) does this seem like over or underwatering shock? something else all together? 2) if watering is the treatment, how much? how long until we can see signs of recovery (to know we are doing the right thing and not making it worse).

Again, thanks!
Courtney and Jim


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Maple tree--shock? too much water? not enough?

  • Posted by jean001 z8aPortland, OR (My Page) on
    Sat, Jul 11, 09 at 23:58

To determine if it's too much or too little water, stick a finger into the soil.


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RE: Maple tree--shock? too much water? not enough?

Unfortunately we started watering before we checked the soil, so would be hard to tell, at this point, if soil was too dry or too wet when the other 'shock symptoms' were occurring.


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RE: Maple tree--shock? too much water? not enough?

  • Posted by jean001 z8aPortland, OR (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 13, 09 at 0:44

Well, you need to know what to do now. Determine if it's wet or dry now. Then you'll know if and when you need to water again.


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RE: Maple tree--shock? too much water? not enough?

jean001, thanks for your response.
I am hoping there is someone on this forum who can help me to understand, based on the description of the tree, leaves currently, etc, what type of shock these trees may have undergone.

I will copy my original questions so that perhaps another forum member can chime in with their thoughts:

My questions are these: 1) does this seem like over or underwatering shock? something else all together? 2) if watering is the treatment, how much? how long until we can see signs of recovery (to know we are doing the right thing and not making it worse).

Again, thanks for the help,


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RE: Maple tree--shock? too much water? not enough?

I wonder if it isn't shock at all. If the trees were planted last fall and budded up nicely this spring, it sounds like they are pretty well developed (regardless of the "clay" soil) Further, Maples, although maybe a little more touchy when young, aren't that fussy with their water. Plus, the fact that they were being steadily watered from the rain sort of suggests that water might not be the issue. I would probably cut out the soakers or at least limit them to once a week, for nor more than an hour or so. I would suggest maybe clipping a sad looking branch and taking it down (bagged!) to your local nursery. They will be able to help you identify it this is a viral/fungal issue, a bug issue, etc. If you are DIY gung-ho, you can shake a limb onto a piece of white paper and see if any critters fall off. I.d. them on the web and buy yourself some bug spray! Hope this helped! Good luck!


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RE: Maple tree--shock? too much water? not enough?

Well without photos it's tough to really comment on this issue with any certainty.

One thing that might make a difference is mulching. Adding 2 or 3 inches of mulch to the area around the trees really helps retain moisture and moderate soil and root temperatures. I'm guessing the trees are not mulched since you mentioned the grass under the trees is also yellow/tan.

We have many small trees on our property line, a long way from the house and the water supply, making routine watering of the trees a major effort. I used to simply dig nice holes and plant the trees on the property line but lost several of them during the first year or two simply because the trees were in full sun and the soil was too dry. When I replaced the trees I added a bag or two of pine mulch around each tree and have not lost one since.

This may not be the case with your trees, but adding mulch to young trees, especially when exposed to full sun and/or wind, is never a bad idea.

HTH,

Dave


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RE: Maple tree--shock? too much water? not enough?

Thanks for the replies. You've given me some avenues to pursue--I appreciate the input. Dave, my husband and I go 'round and round' about the mulching idea. I have always liked the aesthetic of mulch around trees--he does not. But I had not considered the moisture retention aspect. I will be mentioning this to him tonight. The western face tree has lost the majority of its leaves in the last day :-( the eastern face tree (which I thought had looked worse at the start) is hanging on to 80% of its leaves. Still, they appear differently: one tree had leathery green, then crispy/dry, then lost its leaves. The other had curling yellow with crispy edged leaves that it has retained. Both had tan/yellow grass at the base that has greened up with watering. We thought we might be seeing attempts to bud on the yellow leaved tree, but none on the one that has lost its leaves. Of course, the branches still feel rubbery (green) if you gently attempt to bend.

Any thoughts about tree fertilizer spikes?

Thanks,
Courtney


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RE: Maple tree--shock? too much water? not enough?

Thanks Courtney. First of all, I'm not a professional arborist, so anything I've picked up over the years has either come from my own trial and error or from posts on GW and other places.

Regarding mulching, I think it's a good idea to mulch all young trees if for no other reason that to help them become established. It's much easier on the trees when they can grow roots in cool, damp soil rather than in hard, baked soil. So typically when planting a new tree, either a seedling, container-grown or b&b tree, I'll mulch it.

Case in point. We have large gardens bed filled with various flowers, trees and shrubs. We have them covered with 2 to 3" of pine bark mulch. Even in the middle of summer the soil under the mulch stays fairly damp and cool, perfect for roots. However, our lawn surrounding the mulched beds is mostly yellow or brown in summer and the soil is extremely hard and dry. I'd never try and plant anything in dried soil like that. We rarely water our mulched garden beds and everything seems to grow well.

What type of mulch you use is a matter of personal taste, but pine bark chunks last longer and break down much slower than the fine hardwood mulch. Hardwood mulch is cheaper but you will need to reapply it every year or two as it breaks down quickly.

For mature trees, mulching is a matter of aesthetics. We mulch our mature trees to make them "blend in" to our landscape, but that is strictly personal choice. Established trees typically do not need to be mulched but it does cut down on weeds which, in turn, reduces weed trimming and pulling and so forth.

Your maples would benefit from mulch and probably establish roots quicker, but again that is up to you.

If you want to know how dry the soil is, simply dig a small hole near the trees about 8 to 12" deep. If the soil down there is dry, then you know the maple roots will be dry as well. If the soil is damp and cool, then the roots may be OK and not need as much watering. Much also depends on what type of soil you have and how fast it drains.

When watering, remember that occasional deep watering is better than frequent shallow watering. Shallow watering will benefit lawns but typically doesn't get down deep in the soil where the tree roots are.

Fertilizing is a difficult subject as everyone has their own opinions on the topic. You can use the spikes if you wish or you can use a general "balanced" garden fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 and apply a couple times per year. If you want to go the organic route you can skip the fertilizers and apply a top dressing of composted manure either in the spring or late fall. Both ways have worked in my experience. Again, just personal taste.

HTH

Dave


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RE: Maple tree--shock? too much water? not enough?

Dave,
Thanks! I will have my husband read your post this evening, since I am sure something will be lost in my translation. I am going to try to post some pics taken today. So these maples both (not planted by me, mind you!) are leaning. In the photos, if I can post them, you will see the 'lean'. Staking them was going to be our next project--then they both went into cardiac arrest and the staking fell down the priority list. BUT, I have some good news, I think: while 90% of the leaves on the east tree are crunchy and falling off, today's inspection revealed a LOT of budding and new growth! I have been watering both trees daily (since the jury was out on whether or not that would help)...and I think it has helped. So perhaps I can deduce that they were just in heat/dehydration shock? I have included a photo to show just how little shade there is for the west tree (who is also budding some now). I included a photo of two of the mature trees of the development with color changes to the leaves (again, heat and dry? or just about the time to turn? seems early to me.)
Your information will be put to good use...thanks again.
Courtney


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RE: Maple tree--shock? too much water? not enough?

Ok, here's a link to the photos:
http://s565.photobucket.com/albums/ss94/courtneyjim6768/?albumview=slideshow

I hope it works!
Thanks again

Here is a link that might be useful: Photobucket Maples


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RE: Maple tree--shock? too much water? not enough?

Courtney, thanks for the photos. I did see a bit of new growth on your trees,and that is typically a good sign. If the new buds continue to swell and grow then you might be in good shape. If they stop growing or turn brown then that's trouble.

I think I'd still dig a small hole close to the trees and check out the soil moisture. When using a hose like that to water you just don't know how much water is being absorbed by grass and how much is getting down to the deep roots of the tree. I promise not to mention mulching again, but this is where it comes in handy, ensuring that water gets to and remains near the roots. =)

Maples are tough trees and can take quite rough treatment and still survive, so I'm cautiously optomistic about the chances of survival.

If you decide to stake the trees I'd do it before the new roots become established. No point in possibly damaging new roots in case the rootball needs to be adjusted.

BTW, were these b&b trees or were they grown in containers?

Thanks

Dave


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RE: Maple tree--shock? too much water? not enough?

Dave,

Thanks for the follow up--really appreciate your input here.

I really think it was a moisture (lack of) issue...the trees seem to be rallying back. Interestingly, the one with the soaker hose (we turn it on for about 1 hour a day on those days without rain) has been doing better than the one in front. That (front) tree has been receiving straight hose for about 10-15 minutes. BUT! The water seems to run off onto the sidewalk pretty quickly--so I wonder how much is really getting down there.

Your advice about staking: I was waiting until we got over this 'shock' event for fear that I would hurt the root ball by inserting stake(s)--figured these trees had enough to deal with. But you think that would be ok?

These were container trees, btw.

Thanks again,
Courtney


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RE: Maple tree--shock? too much water? not enough?

Courtney and Jim,

Hope your trees are doing OK. We've had terrible drought so hopefully your trees are getting enough water.

Any new growth or new leaves?

HTH

Dave


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RE: Maple tree--shock? too much water? not enough?

I have a mature maple which has been in the yard more than 27 years and survived with little watering from me. I recently planted a circular bed around the tree with Coleus (which like watering) and Dusty Miller (which can do with less) and mulched the bed. Originally after planting them, I watered the Coleus manually every day and watched the Dusty Miller for any signs of needing water. Then, I added an automatic sprinkler for another bed (on a timer) and added the Maple tree bed to be watered every day for 10 minutes. The sprinkler actually shoots past the Maple tree bed, but still waters the bed enough to keep the Coleus happy (I think). The Maple tree bed has been planted close to 2 months. I noticed today that the leaves of the Maple tree on the West side have dried up (crunchy) quite a bit while the East side seems to be much greener. Is the reaction because of all the watering being given to the bed around the Maple tree? The Coleus and Dusty Miller have grown and doing fine. Now that the Coleus and Dusty Miller are stable, should I change the watering pattern to every other day or a couple of days a week? I tend to think this is all a result of my adding the bed around the tree and too much water. Thanks for any response.


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